Coinbase CEO Amplifies Developer Complaints Against Apple’s App Store, Argues The Company’s Censorship Is Holding Back Progress

Founder and CEO of Coinbase Brian Armstrong criticised Apple’s app store restrictions arguing that the guidelines inhibit growth in the DeFi and cryptocurrency space while also restricting access to the technology’s benefits in a lengthy Twitter thread.

Armstrong stated that other companies’ struggles with the app store motivated him to publicly open the issue, adding that many are afraid to speak out in case the store decides to retaliate. His main complaints centered around the app store banning Coinbase from including two key functionalities to iOS apps: the ability to earn money using cryptocurrency or access decentralized finance apps.

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Armstrong gave followers a glimpse into negotiations with Apple which he stated are unproductive and bizarre. Coinbase is forced into modifying products, which he argues creates a worse user experience for customers of both the exchange and Apple. Additionally, Coinbase is barred from providing a list of decentralized apps on iOS even though they are essentially websites accessible from any browser.

“I greatly admire Apple as a company, and think they build amazing products, but their restrictions on the app store, in particular around cryptocurrency, are not defensible in my view, and they are holding back progress in the world,” Armstrong wrote.

He went on to argue that cryptocurrency and DeFi offer an opportunity for underbanked populations to access a global credit market and that both spaces have the potential to improve the world over time. He charged Apple with hindering that potential by censoring the app store.

“Your app offers cryptocurrency transactions in non-embedded software within the app, which is not appropriate for the App Store,” Armstrong wrote was one response Coinbase received from the app store.

He ended with a call to say that one day cryptocurrencies could even be integrated with in-app purchases allowing a broader base of people to participate in global financial systems, adding that Bitcoin just a few years ago was a fringe movement and today is ushering in a transformation in financial services.

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Armstrong’s comments come as the app store has faced increasing scrutiny from both developers and regulators. On Friday, Apple announced revised App Store guidelines to reduce restrictions on games that stream directly from the internet. Apple will now allow games streaming directly from the internet, rather than content installed on a product. Friday’s updates also reduced the number of cases where the App Store’s 15% to 30% fee on app downloads, in-app purchases and subscriptions will be applied.

The App Store has faced outcry from various companies including Epic Games Inc., Microsoft’s xCloud and Google’s Stadia that were prohibitted from offering games streamed from the internet. Despite the update, Epic Games Inc. CEO Tim Sweeney argued in a tweet that the new guidelines will do little to break up the tech giant’s monopoly of the gaming industry.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook also came under fire during an antitrust hearing conducted by House lawmakers last month. Lawmakers grilled Cook on the removal of apps and other anti-competitive practices at the App Store. Cook defended the Store arguing that it provided developers with a cost-stabilized distribution platform. He also argued that Apple’s 30% fee is comparable to the company’s competitors.

Regardless of Cook’s rebuttals, the developer community is not pleased with the App Store’s policies and neither is Armstrong.

By Emily Mason

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